Although Thursday’s NBA trade deadline didn’t provide the same level of fireworks as years past, two former Arkansas basketball stars were traded to new teams and at least eight others could be affected by the moves.
Daniel Gafford in particular finally has a chance to play meaningful basketball after swapping his Washington Wizards jersey for the blue of the Dallas Mavericks.
In Dallas, he will try to help superstar Luke Doncic win his first NBA title, a mission similar to that of his mentor Bobby Portis when joining former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. There are other parallels between the former Arkansas basketball standouts, too.
Gafford, indeed, has followed in the footsteps of Portis quite a bit, from being heralded in-state recruits who spent two years with the Razorbacks to getting drafted by Chicago and being traded to Washington to begin their NBA careers.
After Gafford was drafted by the Bulls, he credited Portis with helping show him the way: “Just having somebody like (Portis) on your side, to be able to talk to him…it helps push yourself a lot more. I used to kind of shape my game after Bobby before I went to Arkansas. I watched one game, and I was a Bobby fan instantly.”
Gafford now has a chance to once again follow the blueprint Portis drew up.
This time, it won’t be by going to the same team again, but instead by joining one of the rising superstars in the league in an attempt to help them win an NBA Championship with his unique skill set. Portis joined Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee in 2020-21 and won the NBA Championship that same season.
Gafford now joins Doncic and Kyrie Irving in Dallas, providing Doncic with the best paint presence of his young career in terms of rim protection and finishing around the rim as a lob threat.
Whether or not Dallas has all the pieces necessary to truly contend for the title is a different story, but acquiring Gafford to play alongside the elite guard duo certainly feels like a step in the right direction.
Former Arkansas Basketball Stars on the Move
Daniel Gafford | Traded from Washington Wizards to Dallas Mavericks
Mavericks Outgoing Players: Richaun Holmes, Grant Williams, Seth Curry
Mavericks Incoming Players: Daniel Gafford, P.J. Washington
The fifth-year big man is in the midst of a career-best season, averaging 10.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.0 steals – all career highs. He also leads the NBA in true shooting percentage – a stat that takes into account 2-point, 3-point and free throw attempts – at 70.7%.
Gafford was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Richaun Holmes and draft compensation. This instantly improves Gafford’s situation in terms of talent on the roster and potential to win games and make a playoff run.
Dallas seemed intent on finding a rim-protecting center like Gafford to pair with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, so he should find a prominent role on this team. Gafford provides arguably the best rim protector and lob threat Doncic has ever played with. Doncic – and Irving – are so good with the ball in their hands that this could free up Gafford to simply be himself and play his brand of basketball with no added responsibilities.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that Dallas still has first-round rookie Derek Lively II, who has started his last 35 games and is averaging 26.0 minutes per game. Newly acquired P.J. Washington is also capable of playing small-ball center, so don’t be surprised if Gafford doesn’t suddenly become a 30-plus minute-per-night player in Dallas.
Doncic even noted, when asked about the former Arkansas basketball standout, that Gafford will likely be filling the backup center role. Still, even if Gafford only gets 20-25 minutes per night, his presence should provide a much-needed boost to the Mavericks’ frontcourt.
Patrick Beverley | Traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Milwaukee Bucks
Bucks Outgoing Players: Cameron Payne, Robin Lopez
Bucks Incoming Players: Patrick Beverley
The Bucks acquired Damian Lillard for Jrue Holiday, seemingly upgrading their overall talent – especially on the offensive side of the ball. However, this led to a predictable lack of perimeter defense due to Lillard getting older (33 years) and never being considered a defensive menace in the first place. While the team has still looked like a contender, the lack of perimeter defense and overall intensity have hampered them.
Enter Patrick Beverley.
The 12-year NBA vet isn’t having a phenomenal season from a stat perspective, but he was playing his role in Philadelphia very well. He averaged only 6.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in roughly 19.2 minutes, but his valuable veteran presence and defensive prowess helped the 76ers achieve a top seed in the East to this point in the season.
NBA Trade Deadline Impact on Other Pro Hogs
Bobby Portis | Milwaukee Bucks
Portis is in no danger of losing his role with the addition of a fellow Pro Hog. The nine-year pro is once again earning his keep as an elite sixth man for the title-contending Bucks. He is averaging 12.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists on 38% shooting from long range this season.
Beverley joining the fray adds depth, defense and more experience to a Milwaukee rotation primed to make the playoffs – a rotation that very much includes Portis’ scoring punch off the bench.
Thunder Outgoing Players: Tre Mann, Davis Bertans, Vasilije Micic
Thunder Incoming Players: Gordon Hayward
On paper, the Thunder seemed to open up an opportunity for Joe and Williams by trading three players for one. However, none of the three players they lost held prominent or permanent roles in their rotation when the team was fully healthy.
Gordon Hayward, however, will likely demand 25-plus minutes even in the later stages of his career. He has put up 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 31.9 minutes per game for the Charlotte Hornets.
His ability to play the 2, 3, or even small-ball 4 at times means that virtually any bench players in the regular rotation (like Joe and Williams to an extent) are candidates to lose minutes. That may become a more likely outcome as the Thunder narrow down their rotation for their first legitimate playoff push in several years.
Nick Smith Jr. | Charlotte Hornets
Hornets Outgoing Players: Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, James Bouknight (waived)
Hornets Incoming Players: Kyle Lowry, Tre Mann, Vasilije Micic, Davis Bertans, Grant Williams, Seth Curry
At first glance, the Hornets selling away the majority of their older players ready to contribute to contending teams should be a good sign for a developing rookie like Nick Smith Jr. In the long run, it probably will be, but it’s worth paying attention to the pieces Charlotte got back.
Players like Kyle Lowry, Davis Bertans and even Seth Curry are potential buyout candidates – meaning the team pays out the remainder of their contract (or a predetermined amount) immediately, allowing the player to choose his next team as a free agent.
However, for the time being, the Hornets swapped out a pair of guards for four guards and two forwards. Sure, their intent seems to be to dive more fully into their rebuild, but the Hornets could choose to hold on to some of these new assets to move them in trades over the offseason. Should that be the case, these players could take precedence over some of the younger guys like Smith.
It bodes well for the former Hog that he’s already begun solidifying a role in the Hornets’ rotation, though. Over his last 27 games, he’s averaging 18.2 minutes to go along with 7.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists on over 44% from long range. Smith ranks second among NBA players shooting at least 3.0 attempts per game in 3-point percentage, trailing only Phoenix’s Grayson Allen.
Moses Moody | Golden State Warriors
Warriors Outgoing Players: Cory Joseph (waived)
Warriors Incoming Players: N/A
The Warriors essentially stood pat at the deadline despite being heavily involved with rumors surrounding Andrew Wiggins. Their only move was to waive guard Cory Joseph, who played just 11.4 minutes per game. However, they’ll likely be active in the buyout/free agency market as they gear up for another playoff push.
Moody has continued to prove his worth in limited opportunities with Golden State, though the team has a plethora of experienced guards ahead of him that continue to make head coach Steve Kerr’s job difficult in terms of the rotation.
In a career high 17.9 minutes across 36 games this season, Moody has nearly doubled his career scoring average from 4.6 to 8.6 points per game to go along with 3.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.6 steals on over 35% shooting from long range.
Moody – the first one-and-done in Arkansas basketball history – has been a positive factor for the most part for the Warriors, but he certainly seems like a player that could provide more quality minutes in a different situation. He’ll seemingly have to wait a bit longer to get his big opportunity, though.
Jordan Walsh | Boston Celtics
Celtics Outgoing Players: Dalano Banton
Celtics Incoming Players: Xavier Tillman, Jaden Springer
Walsh was already not in the greatest position to contend for minutes with this Celtics’ roster – though he did recently get his first opportunity on a real NBA court and has played roughly 15 total minutes over the last 11 games.
In those minutes, Walsh has grabbed 6 total rebounds, giving him a Per 36 rebounding average of 14.4 RPG. That ranks seventh among NBA players with at least 14 minutes played this season – better than the likes of Rudy Gobert, Nikola Jokic, and Victor Wembanyama. The stats don’t lie.
As for Walsh’s future outlook for the rest of this season, things didn’t get better at the deadline. Boston essentially dumped a player that already didn’t get minutes for a potential starting forward and another young wing player that could contend with Walsh even for future minutes. Springer, however, is 6-foot-4 and could play alongside Walsh at different positions on the court.
Ricky Council IV | Philadelphia 76ers
76ers Outgoing Players: Danuel House Jr., Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris Sr., Furkan Korkmaz, Jaden Springer
76ers Incoming Players: Buddy Hield, Cameron Payne
The Sixers attempted to consolidate talent at the deadline, sending out a few fringe rotation players and their lead backup guard for one of the premiere sharpshooters in the entire NBA in Hield and a serviceable backup guard in Payne. While Philly essentially traded five players for two, no prominent spots in the rotation really became available.
Even before the trades, however, Council was starting to turn some heads with his recent opportunities in garbage time minutes for the Sixers. He scored a career high in his last time out with 17 points in only 10 minutes.
Over his last six games, Council has been averaging 8.3 points and 1.3 rebounds on 60% shooting from long range in only 8.4 minutes per game. On a per-36-minutes basis, Council now ranks fifth in the NBA in points per game among players with at least 50 minutes played, trailing only NBA All-Star Starters Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Council recently noted that Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman helped to unlock a major part of his game in his ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line.
Stanley Umude | Detroit Pistons
Pistons Outgoing Players: Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, Killian Hayes, Joe Harris, Danilo Gallinari (waived)
Pistons Incoming Players: Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier, Malachi Flynn, Danuel House Jr.
Before the announcement that Detroit plans to waive Danuel House Jr., the Pistons only lost one more player than they gained at the deadline. Grimes is also a promising young prospect that simply couldn’t find a spot in the rotation for the title-hopeful New York Knicks.
The Pistons are likely leaning back into their youth for the remainder of the season and likely into the offseason. In other words, Umude’s situation hasn’t really changed. The players on his roster might’ve changed, but he’s still a solid option on his two-way contract when the Pistons are looking for extra bodies on any given night.
The Knicks are still focused on youth and Umude still has an opportunity to climb the ranks as they decide who’s worth keeping around for the long haul in this rebuild. He’s averaging 5.0 points and 1.9 rebounds on 52% from distance in 15 games played. Umude currently ranks second in the NBA in 3-point percentage among players averaging at least 1.0 attempts in at least 15 games.
Anthony Black | Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic made no moves at the deadline.
By staying put at the deadline, Orlando basically indicated it’s happy with the current roster. The Magic are loaded with young talent – including Black – and seem to be pushing for the playoffs despite having such a young core.
Black has been a prominent piece in their rotation for most of the season. The Arkansas basketball one-and-done one of only four rookies to be averaging at least 5.1 points, 1.6 assists and shooting over 38% from long range this season. His situation was not changed by the trade deadline.
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